Authorities arrested a Lebanese woman who was carrying pictures of three Americans held hostage in Lebanon and a letter from one of them in a false bottom in her suitcase, police said Saturday.
The woman, a Maronite Christian identified as Aline Ibrahim Rizkalah, 36, was detained Thursday at Milan’s Linate Airport after arriving on a Middle East Airlines flight from Beirut, said Fortunato Finoli, deputy director of the Milan police anti-terrorist unit. She was carrying photos of Terry A. Anderson, Thomas Sutherland and Alann Steen, as well as a handwritten letter signed by Steen, he said.
He said the photographs were to be given to an Italian businessman, who was not identified.
The woman apparently worked as a courier for different people in Lebanon. She told police she knew nothing about the photos or documents.
She was arrested and charged with carrying $1,000 in counterfeit U.S. bills and 50 grams of heroin, Finoli said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman contacted by telephone said officials there had been informed.
Asked if the Italian businessman had any connection with the U.S. government, he said: “We’re not saying a thing about it.” He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Police also questioned the businessman, who was waiting for the woman at the airport, but freed him because he committed no crime, according to Finoli.
Police refused to say who was to ultimately receive the pictures and documents, or why.
It was not clear when the large, black-and-white head shots of the three hostages had been taken, Finoli said, adding that police were examining them. It was also not known when the letter from Steen was written, he said.
The letter was addressed to the Italian businessman and simply “expressed thanks to everyone who was working for his (Steen’s) liberation,” Finoli said.
Finoli refused to elaborate on the Italian’s identity, saying only that he was from the northern part of the country and “well known for other things.”